The frontier for scientific knowledge is expanding at a phenomenal rate. It’s hard to believe that less than 20 years ago, there was no evidence of extra solar planets even existing and yet now we have confirmed the existence of 783 of them, with thousands more waiting on conclusive data. It’s this seemingly exponential growth of knowledge in the realm of astronomy that leads astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell to believe that we will find the answer to that all important question, “Are we alone?” some time this century.
At the 5th Euroscience Open Forum conference in Dublin, Dr. Burnell announced her expectations that we should be seeing evidence of alien life very soon. According to DailyMail, Dr. Burnell isn’t just hopeful that we’ll find evidence of alien biospheres, but that we might even stand a chance at spotting intelligent extraterrestrial life. Dr. Burnell isn’t some crackpot wearing a tinfoil beanie though, she is the respected astrophysicist who was responsible for discovering the first pulsar. In her opinion, governments and world leaders should already be working on plans for what to do when we finally find hard evidence for the existence of extra terrestrials. According to Dr. Burnell…
I do suspect we are going to get signs of life elsewhere, maybe even intelligent life, within the next century.
How well prepared are we? Have we thought of how we approach them? Should we put them in a zoo, eat them, send in GIs to bring them democracy?
If we do suspect there is intelligent life out there, are we going to make ourselves known to them or not?
There are interesting questions about who you would tell first – the Press, the Prime Minister, the Pope? We should start thinking now.
Burnell’s belief that we will find evidence of little green men hinges on the recent explosion of exoplanet data that has occurred with both ground and space based telescopes such as NASA’s Kepler. She says that as more data comes in revealing rocky earth-like planets we should expect the discovery there. But if we do discover aliens, any actions that our world leaders might take will still hit the universal roadblock of the speed of light…
Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. So you are probably talking of conversations that could take 50 or 100 years, just one way.
So barring any crazy medical advancements that might drastically expand your longevity, don’t expect to see a reply in your lifetime. While Stephen Hawking is already on the record saying that most technologically advanced alien races are probably hostile and might come for our resources (a point of view that frankly doesn’t make all that much sense, especially coming from an astrophysicist who should know better), others such as Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute think that finding and communicating with an advanced species could be a harbinger of hope rather than doom. I guess we should know which one of them is right over the next 200 years.
So what do you think, should we say hey when we find aliens out in the cosmos, or should we hide in terror from our future galactic overlords?